NFL Power Rankings

Real football is finally slated to begin tomorrow night with the meeting of the previous two Super Bowl champions.  Instead of doing a division-by-division breakdown, I’m simply going to list the teams in order from 1-32.  This is simply my list as we’re not repeating our efforts last year at TAC to do a weekly power ranking poll.  I might revisit the list during the mid-season, but for now this is how I see the season playing out.  As is done with fantasy rankings, I’m breaking the teams out into tiers.

TIER ONE
1. Green Bay Packers:  I really wanted to pick someone other than the Super Bowl champs, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that they won the Super Bowl and are getting elite players back from injured reserve.  It’s true that Jermichael Finley’s ability to hold up over the season is at least somewhat questionable, and running back Ryan Grant will now be splitting carries with James Starks.  But this is a star studded team on offense, and they might just have the best defense in the league.  They have the best shot at repeating since any defending champion since the Pats last accomplished the feat.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers:  There has never been a repeat matchup in Super Bowl history, but again, where is the overwhelming weakness on this team?  Mike Wallace has emerged as one of the elite receivers in the game, and even as Hines Ward gets a little bit older, Emmauel Sanders looks more than capable of taking on the #2 receiver roll.  The offensive line is perhaps the only roadblock to a return trip to the Super Bowl, but as long as Ben Roethlisberger continues to work his magic behind center, the Steelers should be fine.

3. New Orleans Saints: In a league that so often touts parody it’s funny how the same teams continue to dominate the top spots.  The Saints weren’t quite as crisp a season ago as they were in their amazing Super Bowl run.  But I think they are ready to dominate the South again, especially with the rest of the division taking a step back.

4. New York Jets: They’ve gone from the team that everybody loves to pick on to the team that everyone loves to hate.  Part of it has to do with the perception that they are overrated and part of it has to do with the, err, colorful character of head coach Rex Ryan.  I’m not sure replacing Braylon Edwards with Plaxico Burress is a step up, but the hype is deserved.

5. New England Patriots:  Lots of people are picking New England’s longest suffering franchise in terms of championship droughts to bring home the Lombardi.  This is a very solid team, as usual, but when you look closely at the roster this doesn’t seem to be that impressive a team.  Wes Welker isn’t getting any younger, and he’s not going to get a lot of help from what is otherwise a pedestrian receiving corps.  The other skill positions outside of quarterback are decidedly meh, and even their defense is good but hardly dominant.  So this all naturally means that the Patriots are indeed winning it all.

6. San Diego Chargers: Yes yes, number one offense and number one defense a year ago, and their special teams cannot possibly be as bad.  I don’t think there’s a team that is more of a mortal lock to win their division than the Chargers, but that is partially due to the weakness of their division.  In the end, the Chargers will go as far as they usually go, but they’ll win a lot of games before ending the season in the usual disappointing fashion.

TIER TWO
7. New York Giants:
As I type this no doubt Hakeem Nicks has torn an ACL during practice and will be declared out for the season.  Someone on the Giants seems to suffer a catastrophic injury every day.  But there’s enough depth on the roster that most of the injuries are not really debilitating.  Now if Eli shares the fate of his brother, then that is something else.

8. Houston Texans:  Even the Cardinals eventually made it over the hump.  The Texans appear to have done just enough to improve the defense that they should finally make that first playoff appearance.  Then again, if that fluid around Arian Foster’s hammy doesn’t clear out, it might be yet another season of being thisclose.

9. Philadelphia Eagles:  What’s that smell? Is that the smell of a good team making a desperate push to get to the Super Bowl by making a bunch of off-season moves that apparently makes them the front-runner?  Mmmm, smells tasty.  It’s gonna smell even better when the Eagles go the way of every other team that has done the same thing.

10. Atlanta Falcons: This might be a bit unfair of me, and I did consistently say that the Falcons were overrated a year ago even as they marched to the best record in the NFC.  Of course they did get blown out at home in the second round, so maybe I was right in the end.

11. Baltimore Ravens:  I feel like we’re all living through Groundhog’s Day with this team.  They’re a perpetually good t0 very good team that wins about 10 games, but who don’t have quite the star power to push them that deep into the playoffs.  I expect more of the same.

TIER THREE
12. St. Louis Rams:
As Homer (Simpson) once said: “Default!  The two greatest words in the English language.”  In fairness the Rams should take a step up and win the division not simply because it’s the worst one in football.   The Rams could be a 9-10 win team, though it doesn’t hurt that they get six games against their division opponents.

13. Cleveland Browns:  That is not a typo.  Call it a hunch, but the Browns should take a big step forward this year.  Colt McCoy actually displayed some decent ability last year once he got comfortable and didn’t have to play the league’s best defenses week after week.  He also has a couple of weapons at his disposal, and the Browns could very well make some noise.

14. Detroit Lions: Another in a run of perpetually bottom-feeding teams that could finally take a step forward.  It totally depends on Matthew Stafford’s ability to stay healthy.  If he does, then the Lions should be at least a .500 team.  If not, well . . .

15. Dallas Cowboys: How ’bout them Cowboys?  Meh.  Yeah, they upgraded at head coach in mid-season, mainly because any sentient being would have been an upgrade.  And now the backwards cap wearing idiot is back behind center.  And yet this team is still completely overrated and will be going nowhere again.

 16. Chicago Bears:  But, but, but Jay Cutler cut back on his interceptions last year, and he totally showed more poise in the pocket than usual.  Whatever.

TIER FOUR
17. Indianapolis Colts:  Even with a healthy Peyton Manning for a full season the Colts would barely be a top ten team.  With Manning out for at least a few weeks if not more, it’s just difficult to see how they have the tools to stay above water.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Here begins a run of another set of teams: teams that took a big step forward last year but who will take a big step backwards this year.  It might not be fair to call the Chiefs’ 10-6 record a year ago soft . . . who am I kidding?  Yes it was.  Jamal Charles is a beast, but this is a thoroughly pedestrian team.  With the Chargers coming back to the front, the Chiefs will be taking a back seat.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I feel moderately conflicted about this one.  I like Josh Freeman and think that there are some nice young players on the Bucs, yet I can’t help but feel that they weren’t quite as good as their 10-6 record indicated.  They also remain comfortably behind the Saints and Falcons in the division, and will have a tough time trying to get a wild card.

20. Oakland Raiders: Not sure how the Raiders managed to remain competitive a year ago, but then again you take a look and there is some real talent here.  Sure Al Davis is all but certifiable, but an offense that has weapons like McFadden and Denarius Moore can score some points.  Losing Asomugha, though, will be a big blow for a very mediocre defense.

21. Tennessee Titans: Matt Hasselbeck is a nice veteran to have before transitioning to Jake Locker, but I wouldn’t expect big things out of the Titans even with Manning hurt and the Texans ready to choke as always.

22. Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb isn’t Kurt Warner, but he makes Larry Fitzgerald a legitimate threat once again.  I’m not wowed by the Cards, but they could sneak up on some people.

TIER FIVE
23. Washington Redskins: A “dominant” pre-season has the Skins’ faithful running for the kool-aid as always.  But their starting quarterback is Rex Grossman.  Yes, he once “led” a team to a Super Bowl appearance, but this ain’t the 2006 Bears defense.  Still, it appears as though this franchise is finally headed in the right direction.

24. San Francisco 49ers:  Hey, remember when they were the most dominant franchise in all of professional sports?  If you can recall a time when most people didn’t have cell phones and you had to take your Walkman with you in order to listen to music on the go, you sure remember.

25. Miami Dolphins: Hey, it’s a parade of great teams from the 80s who now completely suck.  There are times when I have forgotten that the Dolphins were in the league.  They’re not awful, but they’re eminently forgettable.

26. Denver Broncos: And one more from the land of formerly dominant teams.  At least Broncos fans will have the occasional Tim Tebow qb sneak to look forward to.

27. Minnesota Vikings: How bad can a team be when they’re taking an aging castoff from the Washington Redskins as their starting qb?  Very bad.

TIER SIX
28. Seattle Seahawks:  
Yeah I picked the Saints third, and they won a Super Bowl two years ago.  But the fact that they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs – road game or not – should be hung around the Saints as a sign of eternal infamy.  They should even have to wear a Scarlet L on their chests to commemorate the loss.  How did the Seahawks win seven games last year, let alone a playoff game?  Seriously, I need to know.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Weren’t really headed anywhere with David Garard.  They ain’t gonna be any better without him, though.

30. Buffalo Bills: Peter King has expressed his excitement about the Bills throughout the pre-season.  Hey, they even added Brad Smith!   Yeah.

31. Carolina Panthers:  Drafting two eventual bust qbs in back-to-back seasons in the first round  – including #1 overall – should set this franchise back a good decade or so.

32. Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer was never the same after getting injured in the playoffs a few years back, but at least he gave the Bengals a fighting chance.  Now they’re looking at a 2-14 season.  But hey, the owner got to make his point.  I’m sure Bengals fans are thrilled about that.

 

15 Responses to NFL Power Rankings

  • You may well be right about my #16 Bears, but I’m not so sure. After splitting the regular season (including a very close season ending loss in a game that was key for the Pack and meaningless for the Bears), the Bears lost to your #1 Packers by a touchdown in the NFC Championship last year — an outcome more comparable to your #2 Steelers in the Super Bowl than your #10 Falcons. And Cutler played great last year behind an offensive line that was the consensus worst, by far, in the NFL. God knows what he might be able to do if he had Rodgers line. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not convinced the Bears belong in Tier One, but Tier Three — I don’t think so. If the Bears do not fix their O-Line they will likely perform no better than last year, but if the O-Line improves there is no reason to believe that they can’t be in the thick of things.

  • What is this futbol of which you speak? :)

  • Longtime Steelers fan here…..they have an old defense and a mediocre at best secondary that Aaron Rodgers shredded in the Super Bowl. Rodgers was throwing deep passes over the middle, his receivers were getting open…and dropping the ball. 31-26 was a fluke. It could have been worse.

    Pittsburgh has not gotten any younger on defense.

    As for the Pack, great team, the coach is a good Catholic from the Greenfield neighborhood in Pittsburgh, but nobody repeats as Super Bowl champs any more. There will be a hangover of sorts, sometime during the season, and they will slip.

  • Good points about the Steelers, but I still think they’re still a notch above the rest of the AFC. I don’t think the Jets have enough firepower to knock them off, the Chargers will choke, and the Pats are not as impressive as people think. I hope I’m wrong – well, only about the Jets not having enough firepower to overtake them.

    As for Da Bears, I see what Mike is saying, but if we’re going by single games they are a team that lost at home . . . to the Redskins.

    But this is all speculation. That’s why they play the games. And as my less than stellar MLB predictions show, I probably will get most of these wrong.

  • Chargers ranked too high; always slow out of the gate. Great fantasy team, but with Norv Turner at the helm they’ll never get the the SB.

    Jets overvalued once again. Rex Ryan talks big but with an inconsistent and still green Sanchez taking snaps, look for 9-7 at best and maybe out of the playoffs.

    Pats and Steelers each will win divisions as usual and go deep. Of course, the Pack are solid faves to repeat and, as a WIsconsinite, they’re my pick to go all the way.

    As for the rest: YAWN.

  • As to my Lions, I’m in Fox Mulder mode now: I want to believe.

    While the point about Matthew Stafford and his Magical Mystery Shoulders is a good one, the offense percolated reasonably well under Shaun Hill. In fact, the Lions won two of the four games in their season-ending winning streak under the field leadership of the legendary Drew Stanton. Why? Because their running game finally came to life.

    The guys to watch on the Lions offense are RBs Jahvid Best and Maurice Morris/Jerome Harrison (they also picked up an RB on the waiver wire from the ‘Skins, but I know bupkis about him). If they can rack up, say, sixteen hundred yards between them, the Lions can contend for the wild card.

    They can, but it’s about 40-60 that they will. Best is a Reggie Bush-style runner, not a load carrier. Morris and Harrison are the high-carry backs, and the best one can say about their respective careers is that each has a good work ethic and isn’t afraid to try to move the pile.

    If rookie Mikel Leshoure hadn’t blown his achilles during the second practice, I’d flip the odds.

    Sooo…I’d probably have them at 18 or 19. The national consensus tabbing them as a “Surprise Pick/Team of the Future” makes me queasy.

  • Dale, sorry to rain on your parade but the fragile Stafford will go down by game 3. Calvin Johnson and not much else. 3rd place would be a step up.

  • Joe:

    No, no, no. I won’t deny a strong likelihood of a Stafford injury (which is inexplicable given his clean bill of health prior to the pros). The offense is much, much better than that. Johnson is obviously a god among men, but he’d be that on any team. Pettigrew is a top-flight tight end, Burleson is a genuine NFL No. 2, and their O-line is good if not great with (finally!) some capable depth players.

    Also, you’re ignoring the defense, which will be better yet with a much-improved linebacker corps. The front seven will be formidable. Overall, the D will keep them in more games.

  • The key thing about the 2010 season was that the NFC West was historically bad. So the teams I think you overate are the ones who played a lot of games against that division: Saints, Chargers and Rams. Though you are rightfully skeptical of the bucs and falcons.

    Other than that is the usual anti-Philly Zummo bias with regard to the Eagles. (For the record I’m a Bears fan.)

  • Other than that is the usual anti-Philly Zummo bias with regard to the Eagles.

    Guilty as charged.

    Of course, just because I’m biased doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

  • With game 1 in the books, it looks like you’re on target with the Packers. The offense looked … unbeatable.

    Of course, the Saints defense picked right where it left off last season. And it that continues, I don’t care how many points Brees and Co. put up, New Orleans won’t smell the playoffs. :(

    P.S. – “In a league that so often touts parody …”. Actually, with Chad Ochocinco in the league, that’s probably true.

  • The Packers won a shootout, and their run defense was solid. Intimidated the Saints into passing on 4th and 1 in the red zone, which is something. But Brees picked their secondary to pieces–410 yards and three touchdowns. Sure, it’s Brees–he’s hard to stop. Still, they’re going to have to find a way to stop a good passing game at some point.

  • And it you’re not biased against the Eagles this year, you either live in their blackout zone, aren’t paying attention or happen to be as nutty as Al Davis. I’m a bit tired of their hype machine myself.

  • Green Bay’s offense sorta sputtered in the second half though. One of their two TD’s was a 108 yd KO return (featuring an incredible acrobatic barrel roll). After rolling up 28 first half points, I expected more of a blow-out.

    Despite their 2nd half lack of production, Green Bay is still formidable. Having a healthy Ryan Grant will make Rodgers even better.

    New Orleans blew it with the 4th and 1 – I would’ve taken the 3 points, if it were me. Go for the sure points on the road. And the extra play at the end? What in the world made them think they would be able to run it up the gut? I would’ve called a play-action with a pass into the flat to Sproles (who would outrun anyone on GB’s defense to the corner) or their tight end. For a minute there, I thought I was watching the Lions’ offense.

    Speaking of which – good call, Dale, on the Fox Mulder reference. I’m closer to investing time in watching them this season, but with the Tigers closing in on a division title, I’ll be paying closer attention to them seeing that they’ll have at least one playoff series.

    And then there’s the Red Wings…

  • Larry:

    Yeah, the Tigers are absorbing my attention, too, but there isn’t much overlap between the NFL schedule and the MLB. While I’m not exactly recommending a three hour investment in the Lions every Sunday (got too burned by that during the Millen-ium), I’m closer than I have been in years. They longer constitute child abuse for my eldest son to watch.

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